2019 Audi S3 Sedan vs. 2018 BMW 3 Series Sedan

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Audi S3 Sedan are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The S3 Sedan has a standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

To provide maximum traction and stability on all roads, All-Wheel Drive is standard on the S3 Sedan. But it costs extra on the 3 Series Sedan.

To help make backing safer, the S3 Sedan’s cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

Both the S3 Sedan and the 3 Series Sedan have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras and available lane departure warning systems.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Audi S3 Sedan is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

S3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

 

Driver

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

217

232

 

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Compression

.5 inches

.6 inches

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Audi S3 Sedan is safer than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

S3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Restraints

GOOD

GOOD

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

103

549

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Femur Force R/L

1.4/0 kN

3.4/3.4 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/1%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Audi S3 Sedan is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

S3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

172

258

Chest Movement

1.1 inches

1.1 inches

Abdominal Force

219 G’s

232 G’s

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

277

326

Spine Acceleration

56 G’s

64 G’s

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

12 inches

17 inches

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Reliability

The Audi S3 Sedan’s engine uses a cast iron block for durability, while the 3 Series Sedan’s engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the S3 Sedan has a standard 320-amp alternator. The 3 Series Sedan’s standard 170-amp alternator and largest (Diesel) 180-amp alternator aren’t as powerful.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Audi vehicles are more reliable than BMW vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Audi 1 place higher in reliability than BMW.

Engine

The S3 Sedan’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 108 more horsepower (288 vs. 180) and 80 lbs.-ft. more torque (280 vs. 200) than the 320i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The S3 Sedan’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 40 more horsepower (288 vs. 248) and 22 lbs.-ft. more torque (280 vs. 258) than the 330i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Road and Track the Audi S3 Sedan is faster than the BMW 3 Series Sedan (automatics tested):

 

S3 Sedan

320i

330i

Zero to 60 MPH

4.4 sec

6.8 sec

5.4 sec

Quarter Mile

13 sec

15.3 sec

13.9 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

105.7 MPH

88.9 MPH

99.5 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi S3 Sedan uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The 3 Series Sedan requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Transmission

The S3 Sedan offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer an SMG.

The S3 Sedan’s launch control uses engine electronics to hold engine RPM’s precisely in order to provide the most stable and rapid acceleration possible, using all of the available traction. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer launch control.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the S3 Sedan’s brake rotors are larger than those on the 3 Series Sedan:

 

S3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

Front Rotors

13.4 inches

12.3 inches

Rear Rotors

12.2 inches

11.8 inches

The S3 Sedan stops much shorter than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

S3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

 

80 to 0 MPH

206 feet

225 feet

Road and Track

70 to 0 MPH

160 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

117 feet

124 feet

Road and Track

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the S3 Sedan’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 3 Series Sedan (235/35R19 vs. 225/40R19).

The S3 Sedan’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 3 Series Sedan’s standard 50 series tires. The S3 Sedan’s optional tires have a lower 35 series profile than the 3 Series Sedan’s optional 40 series front tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the S3 Sedan has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the 3 Series Sedan.

The S3 Sedan has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the 3 Series Sedan; it requires you to depend on its run-flat tires, which limits mileage and speed before they are repaired. If a run-flat is damaged beyond repair by a road hazard your vehicle will have to be towed. Some models of the 3 Series Sedan don’t even offer run-flats.

Suspension and Handling

The S3 Sedan handles at .92 G’s, while the 340i pulls only .84 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The S3 Sedan executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.1 seconds quicker than the 330i (25.2 seconds @ .81 average G’s vs. 26.3 seconds @ .7 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the S3 Sedan’s turning circle is 1 foot tighter than the 3 Series Sedan’s (36.1 feet vs. 37.1 feet). The S3 Sedan’s turning circle is 2.3 feet tighter than the 3 Series Sedan xDrive’s (36.1 feet vs. 38.4 feet).

Chassis

The S3 Sedan is 7 inches shorter than the 3 Series Sedan, making the S3 Sedan easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Servicing Ease

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than BMW. J.D. Power ranks Audi third in service department satisfaction. With a 14% lower rating, BMW is ranked 8th.

Ergonomics

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the S3 Sedan has standard extendable sun visors. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer extendable visors.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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